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Use of modal verbs:

Modal verbs are used to express functions such as:


1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
8.

Permission
Ability
Obligation
Prohibition
Lack of necessity
Advice
possibility
probability

Examples of modal verbs


Here is a list of modals with examples:

Modal Verb
must
must not

can

could

may

might

need not

Expressing
Strong obligation

You must stop when the traffic lights turn red.

logical conclusion / Certainty

He must be very tired. He's been working all day long.

prohibition

You must not smoke in the hospital.

ability

I can swim.

permission

Can I use your phone please?

possibility

Smoking can cause cancer.

ability in the past

When I was younger I could run fast.

polite permission

Excuse me, could I just say something?

possibility

It could rain tomorrow!

permission

May I use your phone please?

possibility, probability

It may rain tomorrow!

polite permission

Might I suggest an idea?

possibility, probability

I might go on holiday to Australia next year.

lack of necessity/absence of
obligation

I need not buy tomatoes. There are plenty of tomatoes in


the fridge.

50 % obligation

I should / ought to see a doctor. I have a terrible


headache.

should/ought to advice

had better

Example

You should / ought to revise your lessons

logical conclusion

He should / ought to be very tired. He's been working all


day long.

advice

You 'd better revise your lessons

remember
Modal verbs are followed by an infinitive without "to", also called the bare infinitive.
Examples:

You must stop when the traffic lights turn red.


You should see to the doctor.
There are a lot of tomatoes in the fridge. You need not buy any.